Using the critical incident technique in early childhood research.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In 1954, John Flanagan, described a research technique for observing human behaviors and identifying participant perceptions from what he described as 'critical incidents' in the participant's life. Flanagan defined critical incidents as: any observable human activity that is sufficiently complete in itself to permit inferences and predictions to be made after the person performing the act. To be critical, an incident must occur in a situation where the purpose or intention of the act seems fairly clear to the observer and where its consequences are sufficiently definite to leave little doubt concerning its effects. Since this time, the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) has been used as a research method across a variety of fields, including education, psychology, medicine, and business. This chapter will provide an overview of the historical roots of the CIT, procedures to support the use of the CIT as a research method, followed by recommendations related to ensuring the credibility and trustworthiness of findings when using the CIT. To help explicate the potential use of the CIT in early childhood research, a study conducted by the author will be used for illustrative purposes, with additional examples provided from two additional unpublished studies. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of research methods in early childhood education
Subtitle of host publicationReview of research methodologies, Vol. I.
EditorsOlivia N. Saracho
Place of PublicationCharlotte, NC
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781623966102, 9781623966119, 9781623966126
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Publication series

NameContemporary perspectives in early childhood education


  • Early Childhood Development
  • Experimentation
  • Methodology
  • Observation Methods
  • Inference
  • Prediction


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